Hugo Chávez, New and Improved

Por Venezuela Real - 15 de Junio, 2008, 16:30, Categoría: Imagen gobierno / Chávez

The New York TImes
June 15, 2008

It turns out that Hugo Chávez is an adaptable man. The Venezuelan president, who has championed — and almost certainly helped arm — Colombia"s FARC rebels, called last week for the rebels to lay down their weapons and unconditionally surrender their hostages.

We suspect this change of heart has been driven more by self-interest than conviction. Mr. Chávez is increasingly unpopular at home and increasingly isolated abroad, especially as evidence has mounted of his meddling in Colombia. The change nevertheless is welcome and well timed.

The FARC, which long ago chose drug trafficking over liberation, has been under assault from Colombia"s Army and looks as if it is unraveling. The United States, Colombia and all of Venezuela"s neighbors should press Mr. Chávez to use all of his influence to get the rebels to demobilize.

There is good news inside Venezuela too. On the same weekend that Mr. Chávez turned on the FARC, he suspended a chilling new law he had enacted by decree that would have forced Venezuelans to cooperate with the intelligence services or go to jail. He has also withdrawn a school curriculum that blasted capitalism as a force to subjugate the people.

With Venezuela"s economy slowing and its inflation rate the highest in Latin America, Mr. Chávez"s approval rating has plunged since December, when he narrowly lost a referendum that would have given him even more power and allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely. With gubernatorial elections coming in November, he apparently decided he needed a political makeover.

Mr. Chávez has a lot further to go. He must stop all aid to the FARC. He must stop using the levers of the state to harass his political opposition at home. And he must stop trying to seize by decree powers that voters denied him in December"s referendum. Venezuela"s voters and its neighbors should use all of their influence to persuade Mr. Chávez that real change is good.

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